Oliver Mlemeta (center) and her colleagues at Usa River Health Facility connect with other health workers on the WhatsApp group. Photo: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Riccardo Gangale.
Better data. Better decisions. Better health.
It was hard for Oliver Mlemeta, the sister in charge at the Usa River Health Facility in Tanzania, to know how many children to expect on immunization day. To figure out which children were due, she would spend hours sifting through dense immunization registries and tallying numbers.
Then she had to make sure she had adequate supplies on hand. If her vaccine stock was low, she'd spend more time calling other clinics and retrieving what she needed by motorbike. Sometimes, she'd have to turn mothers and children away because there were not enough supplies.
When the immunization day came, Oliver and her team would vaccinate hundreds of children. Afterward, more days of reporting awaited the team, which often worked nights and weekends to hand-record metrics into paper ledgers. Once the data were sent up to the district, it was just as difficult for district staff to provide feedback that could help Oliver improve services.
Putting the right information in the right hands
PATH's BID Initiative was designed to make Oliver's work easier, help her do her job better, and reach more kids with lifesaving vaccines. Our vision is to empower countries to enhance immunization and overall health service delivery by improving data collection, quality, and use.
Our approach is practical and country-led. We partnered with two demonstration countries, Tanzania and Zambia, to identify the most critical immunization service delivery challenges. To address them, we are using a holistic approach that focuses on information system products, data management policies, and the practices of people that use them. Our goal is to ensure solutions reflect the realities on the ground and can be sustained over time.
Our package of solutions includes a national electronic immunization registry, developed in collaboration with users from all levels of the health system. The new tool ensures data are timely, complete, and accurate—and puts the power of data in the hands of health workers so they can do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.
An integrated electronic immunization registry to save time—and lives
Now Oliver can easily plan ahead each month.
The electronic immunization registry automatically sends the information she needs to a tablet device: how many children are due for vaccines, which immunizations they need, and how much vaccine stock and supplies the clinic needs on hand. Children are entered into the registry at birth to ensure they do not miss a life-protecting vaccine.
Paul Urioh, the health worker in charge of reproductive and child health at Mareu Health Center in Tanzania, scans a child health card into the electronic immunization registry. Photo: PATH/Trevor Snapp.
On immunization days, Oliver simply scans the barcode sticker that's been added to children's health cards and enters the vaccines given into the registry. The data are accessible at both the facility level, where they're used for stock management, and in the national database, where they're used for tracking and visibility into the immunization system.
The registry also stores contact information for parents, so if a child misses a scheduled vaccine, Oliver can follow up and ensure the child is fully protected. Thanks to the registry's automated reporting, Oliver and her team are spending more time delivering care to their community and less time preparing and reporting.
Creating a culture of data use
The BID Initiative isn't just about technology. We're coupling information system products with policies and practices aimed at creating a data-use culture. From campaigns that motivate health workers to use data to make their jobs easier, to simple tools like the messaging service WhatsApp that connect peers in neighboring facilities for support and advice, health workers like Oliver are using the power of data to make better decisions about service delivery and ways to improve care.
Learning, sharing, and scaling up in Africa
BID Learning Network meetings bring together global partners and country participants to create a rich learning experience for everyone. Photo: PATH/Trevor Snapp.
Through the BID Learning Network, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa are participating in the design and testing of BID tools and interventions. The peer-to-peer learning network offers a platform to share ideas and perspectives and to provide feedback. The process ensures that BID solutions will be relevant for other countries and facilities interested in improving their health programs through better data and decision-making.
As the BID Initiative continues implementing interventions in more facilities in Tanzania and Zambia, and as other countries begin adopting the package of solutions, health workers across sub-Saharan Africa will realize the benefits of timely, accurate data. Because better data combined with better decision-making lead to better health for more children.